When our adoption agency placed Junior with us two years ago, he was perfect in our eyes. However, he was a preemie who spent nearly 2 months in several hospitals and his pre-natal care was a big unknown. Because of his medical history, and what seemed to be some warning signs, we had concerns. His pediatrician and our adoption social worker suggested we sign up for DC’s Strong Start program.
What is Strong Start?
Every state is obligated to find children with 25% delays in any one area of childhood development. Strong Start is the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Early Intervention Program (EIP) for infants and toddlers up to age 3. The program is free for DC residents. Junior was about 3 months old when we signed him up for Strong Start. After an evaluation and he was determined eligible, he got a physical therapist and an occupational therapist.
There were periodic evaluations to determine the level of care he needed as he grew. Sometimes he needed to see one of his therapists once a month and the other twice a month. When he began speaking or making sounds that seemed like words, he got a speech therapist. When it appeared he had mastered walking/toddling, manipulating objects, and other physical milestones, we (his parents, therapists, and Strong Start staff) decided to decrease or stop those therapies.
Home Visits and Parent Coaching
I liked the fact that I did not need to pack Junior into a car or get on the metro for his therapists. We tried to use the services offered by our private insurance but the doctor’s office was far away and appointments were nearly impossible to get. Strong Start visited us at our home. Our home is small but there was always enough room for his therapist to sit with him and interact with him as we looked on.
There was an element of parent coaching with these visits. We would observe what the therapist was doing and practice some of those same activities with Junior later. Early on Senior would take notes, because, honestly I would only remember half of what the therapist said. We would then incorporate a little of what we learned so Junior could practice those things that would help in his development.
Scheduling was a little tricky with both of us parents working and having to use our sick leave, but it worked out. Several of the therapists were very good about letting us know when they would be late or if they needed to reschedule. Then there was Junior and when he was moody or sleepy/asleep, sometimes we would have to reschedule or cut a visit short.
Although we, as parents, got a lot out of the home visits, they ate up a lot of our leave. Thankfully, Junior was able to see his therapists at his daycare. We had to check with the daycare when scheduling, but otherwise, they worked with the therapists when they visited. From talking to the staff and the therapist, it was also good for them to have the therapist there in the other place where he spent a lot of his time, and watch him with other kids.
Strong Start encouraged us to have some visits at home. At different points in his development, we had at least one home visit once a month.
After two years we feel Junior has caught up with his peers developmentally, so we are leaving the program. We really appreciate the services and feel respected as Junior’s parents, as we determined his level of service. I’m not as concerned about my child’s development as I was when we began this journey. Strong Start assures us that if we need their services again, we should reach out. I have talked to other parents who have continued services and transitioned to preschool and special education programs, they like it.
DC residents with a child under the age of 3 can get in contact with Strong Start. The phone number is (202) 727-3665. You can find an application example at this link and you don’t need a medical professional to recommend services. We had our adoption agency social worker recommend services for Junior. The Strong Start program really helped us and if you think they could help you and your little ones, give them a call.